This The Consultant review contains no spoilers.
Prime Video has become one of the more underrated streamers when compared to Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, and its other competitors. While Amazon’s streamer boasts big titles like The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and The Boys, it does, however, lack the abundance of content that the other major players in the streaming game possess. Prime Video isn’t lacking in originality, though. When it does release a new series, you can expect it will typically be able to carve out a niche in its genre of choice.
Enter the much-anticipated Christoph Waltz vehicle, The Consultant. Based on the novel by acclaimed horror writer Bentley Little, this eight-episode first season created by Tony Basgallop (Servant) has largely been marketed as a black comedy by Amazon and various media outlets in the months before release. After watching all of the series, I found this categorization to be a little out of right field.
Dark humor is a hard concept for some people to grasp, and it’s not funny for every viewer. It’s typically a way for the audience to find levity in situations that would be terrifying or somber in real life, and it helps to humanize shows or movies that would otherwise be clouded in morbidity. For example, without the laughs presented by the intense circumstances in crime shows like Breaking Bad or Dexter, we would become overwhelmed by the situations the characters get themselves into. The Consultant certainly is a dystopia-style show, but it works best as a thriller and a mystery, not as a black comedy. It’s somewhat of a marketing failure that it’s being presented otherwise to the audience before release.
Christoph Waltz plays the titular character, Regus Patoff. He’s a very bizarre and controlling man who shows up at video game development company CompWare after the murder of their CEO to help get the firm back under control. The office is immediately subjected to some zany and invasive situations that could potentially be funny, but they’re more curious to me. Actions like Patoff telling all of his employees they must take their shoes off on the job or fighting Gladiator-style for a better office don’t come off as they might be intended.
It’s definitely a biting workplace satire in many ways, and a reflection of the ways people may have gone to great lengths to satisfy their bosses before the influx of remote work that took over during the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, a lot of viewers are going to be exhilarated by putting together the puzzle pieces and figuring out exactly what Regus Patoff is trying to accomplish at CompWare.
All of his objectives are reflected in the juxtaposition of the actions of the two main employee characters, Craig (Nat Wolff) and Elaine (Brittany O’Grady). Patoff manipulates and tests the motivations and personality traits of these two workers, and trying to decipher what makes both of them tick as the season goes on is fascinating.
The performances by all three leads are stellar, which is to be expected when it comes to Waltz, but maybe a bit of a surprise for Wolff and O’Grady. The former is a musician and actor who got his start on the Nickelodeon sitcom The Naked Brothers Band, and the latter played opposite mostly Sydney Sweeney in the first season of The White Lotus. These two get just as much, or possibly even more screen time than Patoff throughout the show, and they make the most of it.
Christoph Waltz’ character is fascinating because he’s so shrouded in mystery. The more they show him, the more we want to see him. If we were spoon fed with more detail right away, the surprises in the finale episode would hit much less powerfully. The discoveries that Craig and Elaine make, along with their reactions to them, help to create clearer picture of the devastating effects Patoff’s actions are having on others around him. This creates genuinely creepy vibes around CompWare and where the company is headed.
Something that could have made it easier for The Consultant to be a dark comedy would have been more world-building around the office. The cast for this show is about as small as you’ll ever see in a workplace show. Don’t expect any brilliant side characters like in The Office or Succession. There are some very fleeting moments of interaction between Craig with a different female coworker and Elaine with a man who she trades offices with. If fleshed out more, maybe these elements could have given credence to the comedic claim of the show.
Most episodes end with a cliffhanger regarding an epiphany or revelation, making it tempting for you to binge the whole season in one sitting. At only 30 minutes an episode, this season comes in at about four hours of content, so a quick watch is certainly in the cards for many.
The theme song and title card is a must-watch every time, as the music helps to create a menacing shadow over the proceedings. Bugs and creepy crawlers take over a typical office space, a great piece of symbolism for the plot of the show. These details are vital to welcome a viewer into the world of the series and make it a convincing watch.
The Consultant is recommended to anyone who wants to reflect on the ways that employment has interjected too much in your life, and for anyone who enjoys watching a snappy thriller. If you’re looking for the second-coming of Barry, a depressing universe of hysterical drama, you’re probably going to be a little disappointed.